Bowes Building renovation set

PITTSFIELD - A contract has been awarded for a major rehabilitation of the James A. Bowes Building on Park Square - formerly the Pittsfield library and now the probate court and deeds registry. Work is set to begin within the next few weeks.

Allegrone Construction of Pittsfield entered the winning bid of $2.797 million for the state-funded reconstruction work at the historic 19th century building that houses the Middle District Registry of Deeds and Berkshire County Probate and Family Court, said Rachael Neff, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

The stone-by-stone restoration of the historic building's facade, a redesign of the entranceway facing Park Square and other upgrades had been slated to begin in May. However, Neff said a protest about the project bidding was filed with the Attorney General's Office.

"The matter was amicably resolved this past June," Neff said, "and the project was awarded to Allegrone Construction of Pittsfield, and a contract was recently executed."

A preliminary construction meeting was held Aug. 13, she said, and it is expected the original timetable for the work will be met.

The work is expected to take about 18 months, project architect William Gillen, of Ford Gillen Architects of Amherst, told the city's Historical Commission in March.

Because sections of the stone walls are bulging, Gillen said, many stones will have to be taken down and re-assembled during the restoration.

Known as the Old Athenaeum building and located at 44 Bank Row, the structure served as Pittsfield's library until it was replaced by the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wendell Avenue in 1976.

The building was constructed in 1876 and a major rear addition was added in 1896. During a reconstruction project in 1979-80, when the court moved into the building, steel bands were added to the outside of the building in an attempt to brace up the stonework.

In addition to stonework, stained-glass windows will be removed, restored and replaced in the project. Other work will include renovations throughout the offices and restrooms, a ventilation system upgrade, modifications to the elevator, interior door replacements and installation of an emergency generator.

The building is described as High Victorian Gothic style and was designed by New York architect William A. Potter. The masonry stone was of blue limestone, Longmeadow freestone and red Missouri granite.

An earlier construction delay followed the Massachusetts Historical Commission's objection to ramps planned on either side of the front entrance as likely to have "an adverse effect" on the Park Square Historic District. The ramps would bring the structure into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Gillen has said the plan now will include a mural-size color image of the building as it is today and historic photos in a prominent permanent display inside the building. The access ramps, he said, will have stainless steel handles with internal lighting aiming down toward the ramp.

To reach Jim Therrien:, or (413) 496-6247. On Twitter: @BE_therrien


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